Friday, December 30, 2011

Lost in the Language


Last week while I was sewing, after I’d watched “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I watched “You’ve Got Mail.”  At one point in the movie the heroine is telling how she feels about the book “Pride and Prejudice:”

I've read Pride and Prejudice about 200 times.
I get lost in the language--words like thither, mischance, Felicity.

I thought as I listened—that’s how I feel about the language in “The Lord of the Rings.”  As we’ve watched yesterday and today I’ve loved the richness of the words…spare and sumptuous at the same time.


It is but a shadow and a thought that you love. I cannot give you what you seek. I have wished you joy since first I saw you…

Where now are the horse and the rider?  Where is the horn that was blowing?  They have passed like rain on the mountain and wind through the meadow…

We cannot defeat the armies of Mordor.  No, we cannot.  But we will meet them in battle nonetheless…

I would have you smile again, not grieve for those whose time has come.

Arise! Arise, Riders of Théoden! Spears shall be shaken! Shields shall be splintered! A sword day! A red day! Ere the sun rises! Ride now! Ride now! Ride! Ride for ruin, and the world's ending!

"I will not say do not weep; for not all tears are evil.


And there are more than a few funny one-liners as well:

I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

I do not doubt his heart, just the reach of his arms

Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?


Now I will go and watch the end of Return of the Kings.  And try to figure out where in my life I could find the time to reread these books.  Here’s the line I’m most looking forward to from the end:


...a day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship. BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY...

PS—Here is our group watching, and then the disaster that is the aftermath of an entire day of movie watching!!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

How Music, Money, and Meeting the Plane Made my Day

Have you ever experienced post-Christmas letdown?  I certainly have had it this year—I think from ongoing fatigue combined with our underlying stress level.  I spent a couple of days feeling tired and kind of grumpy—without even really being aware that that was how I was feeling.


We’re planning a talent show for New Year’s Eve.  Originally it was just an idea to provide my little kids with a piano-recital experience, since I as their piano teacher don’t provide a recital.  Then we found some fabulous Christmas music for strings and piano and started adding things and practicing them.  We played the prelude for church the week before Christmas, and Ann suggested that we should take our show on the road to a nursing home somewhere as long as we had so much beautiful music ready.  Yesterday afternoon we went with my girls (Jared had just had some dental surgery and got to stay home and play video games with Josh) and played our music for a room full of nursing home residents.  It was really an amazing experience.  My musical ability is very moderate, but every now and then I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to ride on the coattails of real musical talent and experience something amazing.   The music we made together was truly beautiful.  I listened and I played and I felt filled by the beauty of the sounds.  The music swirled around in my mind for the rest of the afternoon, along with the gratitude I felt for having been able to share it.

When I arrived home the mail had come.  I looked through the envelopes without opening them, noticing with surprise that there was an envelope from each of Russ’s siblings.  It took me a few minutes to remember that Russ had said that his siblings were going to cover Jason’s mission expenses next month.  Later I opened the envelopes and saw that each check had a short note of love and encouragement with it.  What are the odds that all 4 would arrive on the same day?  The impact of receiving all of them at the same time was significant. I felt so warmed by their concern for us.

Last night I left for the airport about 11 to pick up Cindy Lynn and Mahon.  I had assumed that because I was so tired that I would bring them home and go right to bed.  Instead, we sat at the table and talked and laughed (as only truly tired people can) and talked some more.  I love having them here with us.  We were uncertain for a few months if they were going to come after Christmas this year—even before Russ was laid off he had to take days off without pay and we didn’t have much extra money.  I finally decided that it was really important to me to have them here, and bought the tickets—just weeks before Russ was laid off.  I was so glad that I already had done it—it has given all of us something to look forward to.  Talking with them last night (really early this morning) finished my day off in a wonderful way.  Instead of tired and grouchy, I felt filled by music and service, loved and cared for by Russ’s family, and excited about the week ahead of us with Mahon and Cindy Lynn.  Still tired, sure.  But much, much happier…

Monday, December 26, 2011

I Celebrate the Day (part 3)

We had a great time opening gifts.  Even though things are tighter than usual this year, I wanted to be sure that the kids didn’t feel deprived.  (A lifetime of scarcity mentality in that concern there…)  Which mean that instead of buying a gift for each child that was worth a lot more than all of the others,for the most part I kept all of them in the $15-$25 price range.  They all seemed thrilled with what they gave and what they received, and Rachel said that she thought it was the best Christmas ever. 

Here are some of our favorite gifts.  I actually didn’t take many pictures of gifts, but I do have a few great ones.  First, Josh just after he finished saying how much he LOVED his secret Santa, who was Jenna.  Jenna took his request for candy very seriously, and gave him 5 wrapped gifts.  One was a box of fruit snacks from Costco, one was a huge bottle chocolate milk drink mix from Costco, and the other three contained gummies—bears, worms, lifesaver gummies, and gum too.  He was so excited, our sugar-aholic!  (And no, Josh isn’t very cooperative in pictures!)


These pictures are of Jared with his gift from Rachel, who was his secret Santa.  Jared had made no secret of the fact that he wanted this 53” teddy bear from Costco, and Rachel was dying to get it for him.  At first I told her no—after all we’re downsizing right now.  But then I had a strict talk with myself and reminded myself that they are still children, and I need to remember that rather than being too practical all of the time. 


There aren’t any more pictures, but here are some of the other favorites of the day.  Josh was Rachel’s secret Santa and he gave her this Harry Potter 20 questions game.  I was a little dubious about this one too, but I have to say—everyone who was here today played it at least once, and usually several times. 

20 questions

Russ gave me an unexpected gift—something that I didn’t even know existed.  An avocado slicer!  It worked great tonight for the traditional Christmas Day guacamole (what?  you don’t have Christmas Day guac???) and I think I’m going to love using it.  And yes, I put avocado on everything I possibly can.


He also got me a little travel sewing set that is so cute that it makes me want to travel and sew immediately, and a tiny tape measure for my purse.  So that I’ll be able to measure people at will!

Rachel got a new game called Telestrations, which we’d played this summer in Idaho.  I had a feeling that this would be one that she would enjoy and I was not disappointed.  We had a great time playing it this evening.  It’s kind of a cross between pictionary and the old telephone game.


Jenna got a little fashion design kit that has a tiny dressmaker’s dummy in it, and she’s already planning the clothes she wants to design. 

It was interesting to notice that the little kids are old enough (the girls anyway) to be excited about receiving clothes now.  And they were beyond thrilled to receive several Taylor Swift things.  Their best friend gave them a cd/dvd of a tour, and I was so worried that the dvd I’d bought would be the same thing.  But no, when they opened it it was something else wonderful that they’d wanted.  I have a feeling that we’re going to be all Taylor all the time here. 


After we had a short nap it was time for one of the major highlights of our day.  We got to skype with Jason for over an hour!  I wish I’d taken a picture, but the video didn’t come in too clearly.  It was so much fun talking to him.  He sounds so happy and positive and like he is loving what he is doing.  The kids all had fun talking to him and Cindy Lynn & Mahon were able to talk to him too for a while.  He’s actually gained 10 lbs but he thinks that at least half of it is muscle from all of the hills they walk on.  I have to say that I love having a missionary.


When we were done talking to Jason our dinner guests arrived.  (The Rogersons and Ann.)  We pieced on the leftover breakfast casseroles while we slowly worked on dinner.  We played a game of telestrations (which everyone enjoyed—who knew the latent artistic abilities that our friends have!) and then ate our annual Mexican feast.  Then after dinner we collapsed onto the couch and played a couple of rounds of the Game of Things, a game Cindy Lynn and Mahon introduced us to last year and the Rogersons got for Christmas this year. 


It was a lovely Christmas.  I think we were more tired than usual, so between that and it being Sunday things were a little more subdued than usual.  I loved the feeling that going to church added to the day, and I loved getting to talk to Jason.  It was also fun that our little kids are really old enough to hold their own in games with the adults now. 

In the back of my mind there has been the little thought that we have no idea where we will be for next Christmas—but if this is our last Christmas here, at least everything was just about perfect…

I Celebrate the Day (part 2—the dress report)

We had an hour of church Christmas morning at 9.


If I had my druthers, we’d go to church on Christmas Eve for a reverent candle-lit service and sing all of the Christmas carols. Then we’d go back on Christmas morning for a joyous celebration of His birth. Which is really what we did yesterday morning. The choir music was both unusual and beautiful, there were several duets, the congregational hymn in the middle was an enthusiastic rendition of Angels, and the readings from the scriptures were poignant. We were back home by 10:30 and started opening presents then. I liked that so much better than opening presents at 7AM, even though I was actually up earlier today.

The girls of course wore their new dresses, which turned out fabulously!


We had an old dress that was a hand-me-down from a cousin that the girls had always loved. I asked them what they loved about it so much, and one of the things was the binding on the neck and sleeves. Since I already had a contrast fabric to go with the floral fabric, I decided that I would use it and bind the neck and sleeves. It turned out to be very delicate looking and really striking.


I used the pinterest bow directions again and made a bow for Jenna. It turned out so cute I couldn’t believe I made it. And I’ll have to make one for Rachel because after seeing this thing her dinky little red bow definitely isn’t going to cut it. IMG_9760_thumb[2]

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I Celebrate the Day (part 1)

Russ went to bed an hour ago—worn out by the fact that Christmas Eve (and it’s load of present-wrapping) fell on a Saturday night (with it’s obligatory Christmas-dress-finishing). I talked to one of my sisters for a while and then thought I would write some uber-profound post about Christmas, but I find my brain is too tired for profound. So instead I will write about some of the highlights our our celebration.

I finished the pajamas. I don’t have pictures of all of the kids in them, but Jenna did pose for me so that I could show you how well they turned out.


The top pictures shows Jenna with her new pjs and her new stylish glasses as well. You can see that I made the pj tops with the original cat flannel, but trimmed the tops with the pants fabric and a little bit of a black & white paw print fabric. Then I made the pants out of the new bright pink fabric, and put a band of the cat fabric on the bottom with a little piece of the paw print fabric. I’m so pleased with how they turned out, and both girls wore them all day today (except for to church) so I think they love them too.

We did manage to get the tree decorated and it is totally beautiful this year. I experimented last night, trying to take pictures that would show the lights without washing everything out. I pinned something on Pinterest that was supposed to tell me how but I was too lazy and just kept lengthening the time of the shot. I thought I ended up with a nice glow to my picture.


The only problem with taking the pictures with such slow time was that when the kids all jumped on the couch in the middle of a picture I ended up with a really interesting blur in the middle!


Last night we didn’t stick with our tried & true Christmas Eve celebration. Some of the kids had expressed their unhappiness that some of the parts were “childish”, so I tried to respect their opinions and adapt our traditions for older kids. Instead of reading the story of the nativity from the storybook that we have used since Cindy Lynn was in preschool, we read it from the scriptures. But we still sang all of the hymns as we went along.

I also asked the kids if any of them have ever felt like they’ve missed out because we don’t act out the nativity every year. One of them said that yes, she thought she wanted to do it. One child was adamant that we should not do it. He was, however, the most enthusiastic participant once we started our programme. (Yes, I spelled it that way on purpose. It made me feel very Jane Austen. And I am clearly very tired…) I am wondering if this is the first time that the three wise men brought the baby Jesus technology. (A tv remote, an xbox controller, and a shoe.)


After we were done with our nativity and all of the accompanying carols we read about the first Nephite Christmas in Helaman and 3rd Nephi. Definitely my favorite, every single year. Then we read the short story of the Other Wise Man. (Our bishop read a similar tale at our ward Christmas party this year, and said it was by Tolstoy. It makes me curious to know how many renditions of the ‘inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me’ stories there are out there.)

Then we sent the kids off to bed and Russ & I got to work. Do you think that someday I could finish both the present wrapping and the dress making all in November???

PS—My post title is the title of a song by a group called Relient K. You should listen to their Silent Night/Away in a Manger first and then immediately listen to I Celebrate the Day. (On the cd they just flow from one to the other and you can’t even tell that they are 2 separate tracks.) Every year this is one of the Christmas songs that moves me the most and reminds me why I am so grateful for the Savior’s birth.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sing We Noel

We love caroling.  We have gone caroling many times over the years (including several years with kazoos!), but the last couple of years we could hardly find anyone home (in any neighborhood we tried) to sing to, so we quit trying.  I’ve missed it though, and when we polled the kids to find out what their favorite Christmas traditions were, caroling was at the top of the list for several of them. 

One day I had an idea—what if we went caroling, but instead of going from house to house in a neighborhood, we actually called people and made appointments to come and sing to them?  It lacked spontaneity, but it meant that we would actually be able to sing some Christmas carols.  We decided that we would call some people that we knew who didn’t have children at home any more and might appreciate our youthful group.

The experience we had was unexpected.

We’ve gone caroling before, walking from door to door, hoping that busy people will politely listen to us for a few songs.  This caroling has been for us; about what we wanted to be doing.

Tonight we were thoughtful about where we went.  With the exception of an unplanned stop at a friend’s house when we realized it was located along our route, we were considered who might need a little Christmas cheer.  We made a difference to these dear people; I could see it in their faces and in their eyes.  Instead of “just singing,” we were serving.  And it felt wonderful.

The interesting thing was that one of my children was complaining as we set out to our first destination.  This particular child does not really like to sing, and didn’t want to go caroling. After we left the first house, I asked, “what did you guys think of that?  Do you still feel the same?”  They were unanimous in their feelings—that they had liked singing that time. 

I think a new tradition has been born…


PS—a great moment tonight: Rachel singing Silent Night in the car, and singing

Round your version, mother and child…

It’s always so interesting to hear what your kids think the words are!

Friday, December 23, 2011

God’s Purposes

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways... Isaiah 55:8

This personal revelation/following the Holy Ghost thing is not as straightforward as I used to think. For many years I believed that following a prompting of the Spirit meant there were certain guarantees.  This was a problem for me since I knew people that clearly thought they were following the Spirit when they made important decisions and yet those decisions caused difficulty and even heartache in their lives.  I usually decided that they must have been wrong in their understanding of what the Spirit told them to do.  (Sorry—I know that is so arrogant of me to decide that for someone else, but I didn’t know how else to think about it!)  Then one day someone said to me “Just because the Spirit guides us to do something doesn’t mean it’s going to turn out easy or even well—it may be that the Spirit is guiding us to an experience that will test us and provide needed growth—and those situations are often difficult.”

This conversation marked a real turning point in my understanding of how the Spirit works in my life.  I assumed that I understood.  Enough. (ahhh….how dumb can I be, and how often???) Lately, though, I think I’ve been having little lessons showing me that that scripture from Isaiah is more true than I have understood.


In October I suddenly was motivated (above and beyond my own human ability to be motivated) to paint my kitchen cabinets.  When Russ found out 4 days later that he was being laid off I immediately jumped to the conclusion that God was giving me a head start to get my house ready to sell.  The next week I found out that because I had been so busy working on my kitchen I had been protected from being involved in an emotionally difficult situation the day before the layoff—one that would surely have impacted my ability to be calm and loving (and calm) for Russ the next day.  When I realized that I thought hooray!  Maybe we don’t have to sell our house after all!  But as the weeks have passed it has seemed clear that getting our house ready and putting it on the market is the right thing to do.  It seems possible that the motivation/inspiration to work on the cabinets actually had at least two purposes.


I blogged last week about getting an answer to an almost random prayer for help in figuring out how to use two different fabrics to make the girls’ Christmas pajamas.  The next day (after blogging about it) I started cutting out the rest of the fabric, only to realize that I did not have enough of the new flannel.  “Heavenly Father,” I thought, “how can this be?  You did not mention that I should be really careful cutting out those pj pants.  You did not suggest that I would have to go and buy more fabric.”  I was really bothered by this for a couple of days.  Clearly my revelation was incomplete! 

But as I thought this through more I saw it a bit differently.  I realized—the Spirit didn’t need to tell me that there wasn’t enough fabric—because that was something I was going to learn on my own.  The Spirit didn’t need to tell me to go buy more fabric, because that was something I was going to figure out just as soon as I realized there wasn’t enough fabric.  The Spirit gave me the information I didn’t have and couldn’t figure out on my own.  No more than that.


This last example is the most perplexing to me, because I have no answers for it right now.  As I mentioned before, two weeks ago I dropped my computer.  Which I had randomly had Russ back up the day before.  I was so grateful for the prompting to back the computer up.  When the new hard drive arrived a few days later we found that things were not as they had seemed.  Russ had backed up my computer, but we learned that for the last couple of months (since I switched over to Jason’s computer with Windows 7) the backup had been incomplete.  It had not backed up any new pictures this fall.  Additionally, since Russ assumed that everything was backed up he tried fixing the computer differently, and these differences ensured that he would not be able to recover anything from the dropped hard drive—which he might have otherwise. 

My original assumptions seem to be all wrong.  I wasn’t protected from losing any of my pictures.  In fact, the thought that I was protected may have resulted in a greater loss.  The only benefit that I can see is that I wasn’t at all stressed in those few days while we waited for the new hard drive to come. But at the same time, I can’t question the timing of the thought to back up the computer—I still believe that it was a prompting from the Spirit. 

I don’t have any answers for this one, other than to say that maybe someday I’ll understand better.  And that I can see that my understanding of the complexity of personal revelation has increased a little.  And that that scripture in Isaiah is making a little more sense…

 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my way... 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9



PS—It seemed important to blog about this.  Writing everything out usually clarifies and solidifies things for me.  And since this blog is a record of what is happening in my life and what I’m thinking about, this certainly qualifies.  Additionally, I realized that it’s probably important for me to leave these thoughts for my kids too.  So that one day when they have an experience with the Spirit and they immediately think it means X, and later find out it means Y, or that they can’t even figure out a meaning at all, they’ll remember that I had those moments too. 

PPS—I just read this aloud to Russ.  I do that sometimes when I’ve written something that I’m not sure about.  That way I get his opinion and proofread it better too.  When I was done reading I asked, “Does it make sense? Is it ok??”  And he said that yes, he thought it was good.  And then I said, “But it’s not one of those things that is all neat and tidy—I can’t wrap it up all pretty with a bow on top.”  And he got this really funny look on his face, and he said “That’s life!  When have you ever been able to wrap things up and put a bow on top?”  Um, good point…

PPPS—the new hinges have arrived for the cabinets, but installing them will have to wait until after the holidays.  Don’t worry, I will post lots of kitchen pics when it’s all done! 

Tis the Season to be Sewing


Do you know one thing I love about the Christmas season?  It always seems like I have blanket “permission” to just sew as much as I want and ignore some of the more mundane duties of life…

And what’s not to love about that???


I ran errands much of the day yesterday.  Today…sewing and Christmas movies!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is for Him to Say I’m Right

(I know, I know.  This is not a healthy attitude.  Nevertheless, here it is.  And it was a sweet moment…)


A couple of weeks ago there was a groupon-type deal for a curious looking object.  It looked like a gun and claimed to be able to find and/or fix broken Christmas lights.  I was intrigued.  After I did a little more research I was more than intrigued.  The reviews were overwhelmingly good, and the price was really really reasonable.  I bought it.

When it arrived Russ was less than impressed.  I’m sure he thought I’d fallen for some gimmick,  nothing he would ever need or use.

This morning when I came downstairs he had started putting up the lights.  I heard a funny beeping sound; it was him using my gimmick.  And a few minutes later I heard words that were sweet to my ears.

“I’m sorry, I was wrong.  This is awesome!”


It really is cool.  It beeps by the lights that work and doesn’t beep if it’s broken.  It usually can fix the lights that are broken.  We’ve never put the lights up so quickly or easily.  Everyone who has lights needs one of these!



PS—We keep our lights for the tree wound onto a big spool that came from the hardware store.  But after trying a lot of different ideas to store the rest of the lights, last year we started keeping each strand in it’s own ziploc bag.  We put them away pretty carefully and none of them were tangled up when we got them out.  I call that success. 


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deck the Halls


Last year I gave in a little to the young peer pressure all around me and bought Christmas lights to put in our windows.  I was surprised and disappointed to realize that they didn’t make our house look that great from the outside.  (But I still wasn’t willing to put anything up on that roof!)

December 2010 160


We put the lights up today.  Again I felt a little sad knowing that they wouldn’t make that much difference outside.  Certainly nothing my kids will get excited about.

But then I walked through the house tonight, and my feelings changed completely.  The lights may not have a lot of pizzaz from the street, but inside they are warm and lovely.


They filled my heart with peace and happiness as I looked at them.


This year, the year of stress and uncertainty, they are exactly what I need…



PS…I promise, the tree is getting ornaments tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lens Distortion

Yesterday I was working on a Christmas project, taking pictures of something with a grid on it.  Much to my surprise, when I uploaded the pictures the grid marks were warped.  In the middle of the picture they were straight, but towards all four corners the lines curved.  I retook the pictures at different distances and settings and with my other camera, but I could not get a picture where all of the lines were straight.

I was reminded of that again this morning when I was working with this picture.  Sure enough, now that I knew what to look for, the thing in the picture that should be straight (the horizon), wasn’t.  And not just because of the curve of the earth.  It’s because of my cameras.  (This problem might be solved by the use of a more expensive camera/lens.  But that is neither here nor there.)

Emerald Isle 2011 709

As I worked throughout the day yesterday this stayed on my mind—the thought that I have never realized until this moment that my cameras are taking pictures that are literally distorted.  You see, most of the pictures I’m taking aren’t a grid of straight lines, and so a little distortion in the corners isn’t a big deal.  And really, a little distortion probably doesn’t matter.  (Unless the distortion happens right on someone’s nose, and then I owe them an apology!)  But it is interesting to me to know that what I used to think was an exact (two dimensional) representation, in fact isn’t.


This was a good reminder to me that the same situation exists mentally.  I experience an interaction, have a conversation, remember a conflict, and my instinct is to think that I have an exact representation in my mind of what happened.  The truth of the matter is that everything I see, hear, and experience,  is filtered through my personal lens, just as surely as those pictures were “filtered” through the lens of my camera.  My personal lens may not warp horizontal lines, but it skews things in different ways.  Sometimes my experiences are filtered through the my-family-never-had-enough scarcity mentality.  Most of the time my thoughts are filtered through the the-way-it-works-for-me-is-the-best-way filter.  Recently I’m sure everything is seen through the I’m-just-more-stressed-than-normal-because-my-husband-doesn’t-have-a-job lens. 

Long ago I had a confrontational conversation with someone with whom I’d had several misunderstandings.  She had said some things that just seemed harsh and unloving.  As she explained herself I felt confused—how could we have miscommunicated so badly?  Things that had seemed like they could have one (unkind) explanation were in fact totally rational when I heard her explanation.  We were both certain we were “seeing clearly,” but my lens had distorted her comments, just as her lens had distorted mine.

Many years ago I read the verse in Corinthians:

For now we see through a glass, darkly…

I simply could not understand what it meant, but now (to some degree, anyway) I do.  And I look forward to the day of true clarity.


I’m going to be thinking about this today and hopefully in the coming weeks.  Hopefully I will be remembering those warped lines.  Trying to stop myself from making the assumption that how I see things is representative of how they actually and literally are.  Hoping that I can remember that sometimes my assumptions are flawed in minor ways, and sometimes they are distorted to the point of being unusable.  Clarifying and getting more information where needed. 

Judging less.  Loving more…

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Did You Think to Pray?
(And what happened when I did…)

I’d planned to sew all day today. On my list: three pairs of pjs, two Christmas dresses, and a partridge in a pear tree. (I know, I know…I already used that song. But I just couldn’t resist.) Just one problem. I bought this flannel for the girls pjs 2 years ago. It was prewashed and soft and ready to go. But I didn’t think to measure how much I had, I just started cutting a few nights ago while we were watching Downton Abby, our new favorite show. And before I knew it, I had cut the bodices and sleeves for two nightgowns and realized that there simply wasn’t enough fabric for the rest.

After some consideration I decided I would have to go back to the fabric store and find something that I could use with the fabric I already had. I dropped Jared off at the orthodontist a few days later and ran over to the fabric store, determined to find something that would look great as part of a nightgown. The selection wasn’t great, but I bought a couple of yards of the piece that seemed like it would match the best. I brought it home and threw it into the washer and dryer. In the meantime I tried to imagine how I was going to incorporate this fabric with my original fabric into two nightgowns. I thought about horizontal stripes. I thought about vertical stripes. And I could not figure out something that I really thought would look ok.

This afternoon I was ready to do it. I draped the fabric over my cutting table first one way and then the other. Nothing looked good. Everything I tried looked strange or off balance. I walked into the laundry room to start the washing machine, and in my mind I thought a prayer—an unplanned prayer, a prayer without any expectation of success. I thought

please help me figure out how to use these fabrics together.

And then I started a load of wash.

And do you know what? By the time I walked back into the sewing room, not three minutes later, there was an idea in my mind. A whole different idea than my original one (tops instead of nightgowns, paired with pj pants) but I knew that it would work. And instead of the awkward combinations I had been thinking of, I knew it would look cool, and even designer. Something I would be proud to have made and pleased to see worn.

I am really kind of surprised.
Who knew?

So—has anyone else had any odd little prayers answered??

Friday, December 16, 2011

Really? I get to choose??

I needed the phone number of the Walmart over by the airport.  So I put a Durham zip code in the “store finder” box and this is what popped up.


All I’m saying, is, if I get to choose I’m going to the Walmart in Spain!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Errand of Angels

Many years ago Russ and I spent a very stressful morning at the hospital in Provo, waiting to see if our then 6 month old baby had a fatal genetic disease. By the end of the morning we knew that she did have cystic fibrosis, and thanks to the outdated information at the nearby public library we were scared nearly to death.

As we drove back to our apartment that day I realized that my visiting teachers had made an appointment to come and see me later that afternoon. Because this was in a day before cell phones and instant communication I couldn't call them right then and tell them that it wasn't a good day to come. I can't remember everything that happened that day, but I do remember clearly that they showed up at our apartment, listened lovingly to all of my stress and grief, and that the bishop showed up on our doorstep within a few hours to see if we were ok.

I've often thought of that day; that my initial response was that I should tell them not to come because we were in this terrible moment, and that their visit turned out to be exactly what I/we needed.

Yesterday morning Russ got an email from the recruiter in Arizona telling him that because he lacks some specific kinds of experience they are not going to invite him to come to Arizona for further interviews. As much as we want the right thing to happen and trust that it will, this was crushing.

In the back of my mind was the awareness that my visiting teachers were scheduled to come and see me before lunch, and the thought that it really wasn't a good day for them to come. I got busy cleaning out the refrigerator (because every crisis is more endurable if the fridge is at least clean) and forgot to call and reschedule, and they turned up right on time. As I cut everyone slices of bread fresh from the oven and spread them with butter and honey, I told them what had happened. I felt a little bad that I was so emotional, but they listened and cried with me. Then we talked about how sometimes it is really hard to wait and see what Heavenly Father's plan is. By the time my visiting teachers left I felt loved, supported, and uplifted.

Which is exactly as it was meant to happen, I'd imagine.

Also interesting was that our home teachers were scheduled to come that evening, with a message from President Eyring reminding us that we are commanded to be grateful in all things, even in our trials. I loved this quote:
We must ask in prayer that God, by the power of the Holy Ghost, will help us see our blessings clearly even in the midst of our trials. He can help us by the power of the Spirit to recognize and be grateful for blessings we take for granted.

I have always felt like visiting teaching is an inspired church program, but typically I think of it as inspired in a more general way. Yesterday I was reminded that sometimes that inspiration happens in a precise and specific way--yet another reminder that the Lord is watching over and caring for our family.

PS-- I am listening to a new song this week. You can see a live acoustic version of it here, or a studio version with no visuals here. whole world is caving in
But I feel you now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
But somehow still have all I need?

God I want to know you more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find you when I fall apart...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Three $1 Socks,
Two Christmas Balls,
and a Bow from a Pinterest link!

My newest Pinterest success:

I had wanted to make one of those wreaths with all of the Christmas balls on it, but figured that this wasn't a good time to be spending extra money or making something that would be difficult to move. I decided instead to make this sock wreath and I think I got a lot of bang for my three dollars.

I started by making a cardboard circle from the biggest cardboard box I had laying around, then I cut a smaller circle in the middle. Then I took my 3 pairs of socks from the dollar store and cut them on either side of the heel and cut off the toes. Then I just slipped them on over the cardboard. I made the bow following instructions found on pinterest as well, using ribbon leftover some other project.

Last I took some of the leftover Christmas balls and hung them from another piece of leftover ribbon. I think it turned out great!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Statement of Faith
I'm Not Gonna Go There With You

Earlier this week someone made a comment to me about Russ losing his job. I knew that their family had experienced financial difficulty before and that they expected to be able to commiserate with me verbally. (i.e. pity party)

Let me just say for the record, I am not going there.


When we joined a local Christian homeschooling group many years ago they presented me with a piece of paper containing their Statement of Faith. Their statement of faith was not one I could completely agree with, but since then I've loved the idea of either an organizational or personal statement of faith. It seems a good time to write down some of the thoughts that are in mine...

I love our life. I have loved Russ's job. I have loved having a measure of financial security. I love my house and I love Durham and our Durham friends and family. But I am willing to give it all up if that's what God wants of/from us. I trust that He has our best interests in mind. I trust that He knows what we most need and where we most need it. I trust that our family can find happiness wherever we are together. I believe that He can comfort our deep sadness at the thought of leaving this beautiful place and the people we love here. I even believe that I can survive without being able to go to the ocean multiple times a year. (And that's saying a lot!)

I refuse to fight it. I am trying not to whine too much, and instead to pay close attention to all of the many evidences that God is active in and aware of our lives. And I really and truly and fully believe that one day we will look back on this and give thanks for everything that happened and how it turned out. I Believe That.


I started reading a book tonight by Elder Lund called "Divine Signatures." I thought the quote on the back was amazing:

Sometimes, the Lord sends His blessings in such a highly unusual, dramatic, or precisely timed manner, that it might be likened to a 'divine signature.' It is as though the Lord 'signs' the blessing personally so that we will know with certainty that it comes from Him. In doing so, God not only gives us the blessing, but at the same time He strengthens our faith and deepens our testimony of Him.

Here is this week's divine signature in my life. My desk has been piled high with mounds of stuff since I started working on the kitchen. Normally I use my computer at my desk, but in the last two months I haven't at all. Last week I started trying to clear things off of it--every time I walked by I would pick up a thing or two. I made a little progress, but not enough to actually sit there and work.

On Thursday I had a meeting and then a long hair appointment, so I knew I would be gone for 5-6 hours. At some point I started thinking that it had probably been too long since I'd backed my computer up (since the external hard drive & backup software sit on my desk) and that I should probably go ahead and do it. I left the house in a hurry, but asked Russ as I left if he would plug my computer into the hard drive and make sure the backup started. I didn't think another thing about it.

I didn't even think about it on Friday night when I stumbled and dropped the computer. (Somewhere between 6 and 18 inches, depending on who's version of the incident you're going to believe.)

I didn't think of it again until Saturday night, when my computer suddenly refused to complete an order on amazon and subsequently refused to reboot.

And you can believe I thought of it when Russ said he thought the hard drive was dead.

All I can think now is,

And I know that the answer is that there are no odds in the world that are that good. I am astonished and deeply grateful, and I am certain that the timing is doing just what Elder Lund said it would... not just giving me the blessing (of not losing so much of my life that is contained in that computer) but also of helping to strengthen my faith and deepen my testimony of Him.


In conclusion, let me say that if you want to talk about the joy you feel when you see the hand of the Lord in your life, I'm your gal. If you want we can trade experiences where we know the Holy Ghost was working in our lives and shake our heads with astonishment that it sounded just like every other thought in our heads. If you want someone to affirm your faith with or to share the scriptures that are standing out in your mind and heart and bringing you comfort in troubled times, give me a call.

But that other? I'm just not gonna go there with you...

PS. When we put the bread in the oven tonight it seemed to be working just fine. When the timer went off 30 minutes later the bread was still mostly (very well risen) raw dough. Looks like the bottom element of the oven has stopped working. At this point it just makes me laugh...

Friday, December 9, 2011

In Which Russ Chila-Killes the Kids

It is time I tell you the story that has become a part of Ray Family Lore and needs now to be memorialized in my blog.

In the spring, while I was happily holding babies at my sister’s house, Russ was planning to try a new recipe out on the kids.  The recipe was for Chilaquiles (pronounced chee-lah-KEE-lays, should you be struggling with that) and he was sure it was going to be well received.  According to all of the food network shows Russ watches, chilaquiles are the ultimate in comfort food.  The recipe called for a couple of ingredients we didn’t have in the pantry but finally he had accumulated everything he needed, including 2 cans of chipotle peppers, and was set to make his new dish.

On the night in question he sliced and fried and blended (the 2 cans of chipotle peppers) and shredded his way to chilaquile perfection.  He put the food on the table and served each child some chilaquile and then went to get a few more things to put on the table.  As the children started eating, one at a time they complained to Russ that the food was too spicy. 

[I must insert a side note here.  Dieting seems to have had the singular effect on Russ of completely destroying his palate.  Now he is unable to eat something with any amount of enjoyment unless it is so spicy that it makes the rest of us cry from pain.]

Russ assured the kids that the food was not too spicy, and told them to keep eating.  A few minutes later he sat down and started eating.  He was surprised to find that the first bite was spicy, even to him.  He took another bite thinking  that it would be better, but it was even worse.  And after the third bite, his mouth burning, he admitted defeat.  And told the kids that they had his permission to stop eating.  It was too spicy!

He was so puzzled.  Though he has made food before that is too spicy for some of the rest of us, never before has he followed a recipe (or even jazzed up an existing dish) and had such a total failure.  It was not until he looked at the recipe again (far more carefully) that he realized his mistake.

Where he thought he read
2 cans of chipotle peppers, blended,
it read instead:
2 canned chipotle peppers, blended.

A subtle, but very important distinction, especially as there are usually 4-6 chipotle chilies in each can!


Tonight we successfully ate Chilaquiles.   We are not convinced that they are the ultimate comfort food.  But at least they were somewhat comfortable this time!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

O Pinterest, O Pinterest!

(don’t you like my Christmas song allusion?)

The girls had a cookie exchange tonight for Girl Scouts; each girl was to bring 24 cookies to exchange with the other girl scouts.  I told the girls that they could each look at my Pinterest Christmas treats page and choose what we would make for their part of the exchange. 

Jenna chose these peppermint brownie cookies.  I’d looked forward to trying them, and now having tasted them I can’t quite decide what I think.  The frosting (complete with a dash of salt and a couple of tablespoons of cream) was fabulous.  The peppermint on top gave it a nice burst of flavor.  The brownie cookie had the great taste of brownie, but unfortunately was just a little bit tough.  I would probably make them again, but I wish I knew enough to make the cookie a little more tender.


Rachel went in another direction entirely.  Instead of looking for a cookie that was the tastiest, she went for the cookie that was the most fun.  And these melted snowman cookies were lots of fun to make.  I used the allrecipes link for the sugar cookies and they were delicious.  The royal icing isn’t too tasty, but it actually wasn’t bad either.  And the finished product was such fun.  It did make me wish that I had black food coloring (blech!) because making the eyes, mouths, and arms with the black gel stuff from Kroger was a pain.  Maybe next year?



Oh no!  I’m melting!!


Jared also made a choice—he chose a delicious chocolate peppermint roll that I think we’ll make tomorrow or the next day.  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

(Did I mention how much I love pinterest?  What a great way to keep track of stuff!  Thanks Megan & Katie for my new addiction!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Heroic Girls & A Funny Boy

(oops sorry, no Christmas lyrics there!)

A couple of weeks ago we had a real, genuine adventure right here in River City.  Russ and I had just left one evening to go run some errands.  The boys had gone to a movie with a friend, so for the purposes of this first story they don’t exist.  Or at least they were not at home.

As we drove away from the house I realized that I needed some information and so I called home and Rachel answered.  I was telling her what I needed to know when she told me that someone was knocking at the door, and that it was our 12 year old next door neighbor.  (She’s usually pretty freaked out if someone knocks on the door while we’re not home, but since it was her friend she skipped the freak-out and just opened the door.)

In the background I could hear some agitated words, and then Rachel got back on the phone.  “Mom,” she said, “his dogs got in a fight and one of them is hurt really bad.  He needs help taking the dog to a vet.”

For some reason I told Russ to turn around and head back home—at this point we were less than a mile outside of the neighborhood.  As we drove back towards our house we heard the neighbor tell Rachel that the dog had also bitten him, but that did not prepare me for seeing his leg when I walked into the house.  The girls had gotten the bandaids and neosporin out but it was clear that what he needed was not a bandaid but a trip to the ER.  He and his mom ended up spending most of the night in the ER, where the doctors did a beautiful job stitching his leg back together.


A week or two later Russ and I were leaving the house with the girls.  Josh was gone somewhere too.  Right as we were ready to walk out the door, Jared ran up to us as if he was in a panic.

“Mom,” he said, “what do I do if I’m home alone and Tiger bites me????”


Funny, funny boy.


(I don’t have any pictures of Tiger attacking Jared, but here is a picture of Tiger getting ready to attack a leaf,


and here are some of my funny boy doing his schoolwork.)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

There’s no place like home for the holidays…

I’m thinking of only using titles from Christmas songs for blog titles in December.  Or at least using lines from Christmas songs.  Or at the very least, making sure I am thinking about Christmas songs while I am blogging…

Anyway, I know the rest of you got out your Christmas decorations and decorated your entire houses on the day after Thanksgiving while I was eating pie for breakfast and watching hours of Harry Potter.  One of the reasons I know this is because tonight Jared told me that

everyone he knows already has their tree up, and can’t we go get a tree???

I told him that as soon as we A)figure out where we are going to put the tree, which really means B)where are we going to put the treadmill which now lives where the tree used to and C)get the house cleaned up and D)Russ gets out the Christmas stuff then we will, indeed, get a tree.  I promised him that it would be done by the 15th of December.  (I believe in wide margins.)  He was not satisfied.

For me I consider it exceptional that I have almost made a new Christmas wreath (as in almost completed, not as in almost thought about starting it) and I have put up some Christmas decorations in our breakfast area.  Thanks to my awesome and stylish cousin Emily (who happens to own 30 skirts, which is pretty amazing) for the cute idea. 


I hope you all know that for me to have any kind of Christmas decorations up this early in December is really amazing.

I hope you also know that these are the ones that are up because this is a relatively clean spot in my house, so I can stand to have them there.  As in the ceiling is a relatively clean area, not the breakfast area.

I hope you also know that I am really not a Grinch.  Just about decorations.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My laugh for the morning…


My 11 year old scout was just getting ready for the upcoming board of review.  I was a little puzzled when he read off,

Know how to care for a person who is cooking



Ummm….I think I haven’t been cared for well enough!  But how do you care for a person who is cooking?  Do you stand there and pat them on the back??  Tell them what a good job they’re doing measuring the salt???


(And the word was really choking…)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Trusting, perspective, and an answered prayer

Yesterday was our ward’s Christmas Dinner & Live Nativity.  While my shepherds and my wise man were standing out in the chilly night I was visiting with women in the ward that I rarely get a chance to chat with.  They were asking about the situation with Russ’s job, and I was telling about some of the things that have happened.  As I told about my odd compulsion to paint the kitchen cabinets and being able to get in to see the physical therapist while we still have health insurance, one of them made a comment that solidified something in my mind and heart.

“Well,” she said, “if He is involved in these details, surely he is watching over you and has a plan for your family.”


I am still sad.  Sad to be preparing my house to try to sell it.  Sad to think of leaving North Carolina.  But I really do trust that if God has intervened to make sure that I start painting my cabinets while the weather is nice and that I can get physical therapy, then He surely will make sure the right job happens in the right place and at the right time.




People are usually pretty fascinated when they find out that we have triplets.  (I don’t blame them, I’m still fascinated myself.)  Several people asked about them on Tuesday while we were fixing & serving lunch at the missionary zone training.  Invariably they comment that it must have been hard to have three babies at the same time.  Invariably I agree.

I always go to the same place in these conversations.  I say, “It was [almost] the hardest thing that ever happened to me.”  And then I continue, “And then all of a sudden it changed, and it became the best thing that ever happened to me.”  (Which is so very completely totally true.)

This time, as I said this I felt the Spirit prick my heart.

“What did I just say?  That the HARDEST thing in my life became the BEST thing in my life.”

Later I explored this thought a little more.  I mentally poked around at other events in my life that I have labeled HARD things.  It was a hard thing years ago when our dearest friends graduated and moved away from Durham.  But as I thought about it, I realized that not only was it vital that our friends end up living near their families, but their absence created the opportunity/necessity for other relationships to become more important.  Our other friends have become like our family; I cherish them and consider their friendship one of the best things in my life.

As I thought about this throughout the day, I felt the Spirit asking me, “Which BEST thing would you choose not to have?” And “How do you know what BEST things may still lie in store for you, as a result of the HARDEST thing you are going through now???” 

I KNOW for a fact that, had I the power to change life, I would never allow any of the hardest things.  Every time I look at my three beautiful children I give thanks  that I did not have that power, and that they are all here. 


I got the message.



Josh assumed when he found out that his dad had been laid off that he wouldn’t be able to go to EFY next summer.  I told him that EFY is really important to us, and that I thought that if he could pay half, we would be able to afford half.  Then he had a fender bender in the parking lot at school (a place of driving insanity) and we got the bill this week.  Let’s just say it will cost almost 3 EFY’s.

I was really distressed.  Josh has been working for our neighbors and would have been able to pay for half of EFY, but this accident is going to take everything he can earn and we will still have to help pay for it.  Which means there is really no money for EFY.  Additionally, all of this has to be figured out pretty soon because EFY signup is just a couple of weeks after Christmas.


I came home from church tired.  I stayed up way too late last night, church is early, choir on fast sunday is always harder, and we had tithing settlement too.  I climbed into bed for a nap still thinking about EFY.  As I lay there waiting to fall asleep I prayed.  I told Heavenly Father how important we think EFY is for Josh in particular.  I told Him that I didn’t see that we had a way to pay for it.  I asked Him for help.  And then I went to sleep.


Tonight the doorbell rang while we were at the kitchen table playing a game.  At the door was a neighborhood friend with a Christmas card.  She said that she was worried about us and brought this because she wanted to make sure we were going to be ok.  I interpreted that to mean that there was some money in the card and I was surprised and touched.  I gave her a hug, she left and I went back into the kitchen.

I opened the envelope and pulled out the card and then a check.

Written for 75% of the cost of EFY.


My friend doesn’t know what EFY is.  She is not a religious person.  But I have not a single doubt that this evening she was a direct (and seriously speedy) answer to my prayer. 



I keep remembering Elder Bednar’s talk on tender mercies, and his statement:

I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real
and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence.

Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.

I am amazed and humbled as I keep track of the tender mercies that have occurred and are occurring in our lives right now.  And I am certain that the Lord is reminding me at every turn that He is more than mindful of us, and that we can trust Him.  With all of it—job, location,our whole lives.  Because His plan is the one that we really want.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

More Stuff to ♥

I know, I know. It’s way past November. But I just realized that I forgot to ever mention the things that first made me want to blog about things I love. Here they are:


I love these spatulas. The kids gave them to me for Christmas last year, after I asked for heat proof spatulas. I never imagined how much I would love them. And only another person who eats eggs for breakfast practically every morning can truly understand the depth of my love for these hard working heat tolerant scrambled egg scraping beauties. Thank you, kids, thank you Laila for telling me they existed, and thank you especially to whoever invented them. You make my life better and happier on a daily (morningly?) basis.

Next. Yesterday it was finally cold enough that I needed to put the shades down in the bathroom. I’ve enjoyed them all summer when I’ve noticed them, but putting them down definitely changes how much I notice them. I love how the light shines through the fabric & makes me feel all tropical. And you know how I love to feel all tropical…


And last, I love it when my best friend knows how to give the birthday gift that make me laugh and laugh and laugh. A gift of laughter for years to come, I suspect. Thank you, Alisyn, and may I present my newest Christmas ornament!


Friday, December 2, 2011

O Happy Day!

Look what I bought at Costco on Tuesday.

Our Costco.

As in Durham, North Carolina.

What is that, you may ask? (But you wouldn’t if you know me very well at all!) What it is, is:

Total tortilla tastiness!

Please, fellow Durham-ites. Run. Do Not Walk. To Costco. Buy some. Tell your friends, neighbors and co-workers to buy some. So that they will keep selling them. So that I can stop harassing people to bring me back some from Utah. (Thank you Becky. And good try Ken.)

Yum, yum, yum.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oops—November finished a little earlier than I expected!

And I wasn’t done talking about things that I love.  Blame it on the cabinets.  Anyway, I’ve just posted 3 more posts that should have been in November to catch up.  Now I’m exhausted from thinking all of those loving thoughts and I think it’s bedtime!

I ♥ This

Just after my mom died I went on a business trip with Russ to San Jose. We had a really great time, though unfortunately there are no decent pictures of the trip to scan and include.

The first day we were there Russ was free and we went into San Francisco. We were headed towards Fisherman’s Wharf, but ended up instead at Pier 39.

We spent a fabulous day there, though the whole time I felt slightly guilty that we hadn’t yet made it to Fisherman’s Wharf. Which was a good lesson to me to enjoy the moment you’re in, since when we finally went to Fisherman’s Wharf a few days later we didn’t enjoy it nearly as much!

One of the fun things we did at Pier 39 was watch an artist make these beautiful rainbow signs of people’s names. After watching him for a while I decided that I really wanted one. I was really REALLY hoping that my name would include a dolphin, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The second lesson was that when you buy something that is an odd shape while you are on vacation, and they offer to see you a frame for it, buy it! Because you’re never going to be able to find/afford the right size frame once you get home. I didn’t buy the frame because I thought it would be a pain to fly with (which was true) but then once I got home I had no affordable way to frame it. So my beautiful painting spent several years rolled up in a tube waiting for a solution.

Then Russ finally built a frame for me, and Ramona painted it, and I put it up on the wall. It’s right next to the window, so every morning I see my beautiful view and then next my beautiful art work.


By the time the artist got to my name we had watched him do several other names, so we had seen a bunch of his characters. I was talking to Russ about which ones I liked, and when he started with the dolphin I was so excited. Then I said that I hoped one of my characters was the golden gate bridge—we’d seen him do that one several times and it was really neat. I was kind of disappointed when it didn’t show up in any of the letters of my name. But then he finished off with this signature, and I didn’t have to be disappointed anymore.


So there you go…the last of my list of things I love for November. Even if it took me until December to finish it off!

I ♥ Autumn (part 3)

One of our traditions is a fall hike. For many years we’ve gone to the Eno where the swinging bridge is, and a couple of times we’ve hiked along the Eno by the Guess bridge. This year everyone was so busy that all of a sudden it was November and we still hadn’t taken our hike. I was pretty sure that the leaves would be off of all of the trees in our usual spots, so I persuaded (begged) everyone to hike with me in Duke Forest one Sunday afternoon.

I was really excited to know that the hike was a 3 mile loop, so that once we were started we were essentially committed to the whole thing…

There were a few minutes at the beginning of the hike that we questioned our choice of location. At the beginning of the trail there were periodic sewer access pipes. All I can say is NASTY! But once we were past those and our noses had recovered, it was lovely.


We walked and talked and enjoyed the mild weather. In fact after a while we wished we weren’t dressed quite so warmly!


And of course the company was as good as the scenery.


The kids were excited when we came upon a big (non-stinky) sewer pipe supported by brick columns. Rachel the adventuress immediately wanted to walk on it. I could understand her desire; I spent months of courtship & engagement taking walks with Russ, walking on every low wall, curb, or (as Russ puts it) anything that was above where he was. (Not that I felt a need to be higher than him, just that I loved walking on things!) Anyway, I told her it was ok with me if she walked on the pipe. And I hoped that she would be steady and not fall and break something and need to be carried a mile and a half out to the car!


There were several of these pipes, and at the second one Jared decided that he needed to try it too. By the last Jenna, much more timid, decided that she wanted to try it as well. It made me happy to watch them. And happy that no one fell…


It was a delightful way to spend an afternoon—thanks friends & family for going with me!